One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.
“Students are many; disciples are few. Many students came to my master and requested, “Please accept me as your disciple.” They all showed their faithfulness by serving him, by chanting, by learning, and by practicing disciplines. He did not respond. One day he called everyone to him. There were twenty students. He said, “Let’s go.” Everyone followed him to the bank of the Tungbhadra River in South India. It was in full flood, very wide and dangerous. He said, “He who can cross this river is my disciple.”
One student said, “Sir, you know I can do it, but I have to go back to finish my work.” Another student said, “Sir, I don’t know how to swim.” I didn’t say anything. As soon as he said it, I jumped. He sat down quietly as I crossed the river. It was very wide. There were many crocodiles, and huge logs were rolling with the currents of water, but I was not concerned. My mind was one-pointed on completing the challenge I was given. I loved to be challenged, and I always accepted a challenge joyfully. It was a source of inspiration for me to examine my own strength. Whenever I was tired I would float, and in this way I succeeded in crossing the river.
My master said to the other students, “He didn’t say that he was my disciple, but he jumped.”
I was close enough to him to know his power. I thought, “He wants his disciples to cross the river. Here I am. I can do it. It’s nothing, because he is here. Why can’t I do it?” So firm were my faith and determination.
Faith and determination, these two are the essential rungs on the ladder of enlightenment. Without them the word “enlightenment” can be written and spoken, but never realized. Without faith we can attain some degree of intellectual knowledge, but only with faith can we see into the most subtle chambers of our being. Determination is the power that sees us through all frustrations and obstacles. It helps in building willpower, which is the very basis of success within and without. It is said in the scriptures that with the help of sankalpa shakti (the power of determination) nothing is impossible. Behind all the great works done by the great leaders of the world stands this shakti. With this power behind him, such a leader says, “I will do it; I have to do it; I have the means to do it.” When this power of determination is not interrupted, one inevitably attains the desired goal.”
- Swami Rama in Living with the Himalayan Masters pages 49-50